A man who loves to decorate for the holidays has taken the Christmas spirit to a whole new level by answering Santa letters.
Joe Lebert, for some time, would decorate his mom’s porch with a Christmas tree and decorations.
The children who attended school across the street at H.D. Berkey Elementary School in Arnold, Pennsylvania, loved it, he said, but after the home got new shingles, he decided to stop putting up the tree.
Instead, Lebert wanted to find another way to decorate. He wound up getting a “Letters to Santa” mailbox and put it in front of the house, next to the sidewalk.
Lebert told TribLive he noticed one day what looked like papers under the mailbox. Thinking someone had dropped garbage in the box, he looked more closely and saw the papers were letters to Santa from 19 students at Berkey.
Those letters had come from Mick Dombroski’s first-grade class.
After the teacher saw the mailbox, he had his students write letters to Santa and walked them over to drop them in the mailbox … only to realize it was just a decoration. But Dombroski’s class went ahead and left the letters there.
What happened next could be described as magical.
Not long after the letters were left at Lebert’s mailbox, responses to the letters started arriving at the school -- from “Santa.”
Lebert was kind enough to walk the responses over to the school for the big man.
“The kids were so excited,” Dombroski told TribLive. “It was better than seeing Santa -- seeing these letters personalized to them. They just started yelling out, ‘It’s from Santa! Look at this!’ and sharing with each other. So much joy comes out of them. It’s the most excitement they have all year.”
The personalized responses the kids received include cards from the ”Elf Executive Office,” certifying that the recipient is on the “nice list.” It comes with an encouraging word to keep up the good work. Included is a letter that’s checked and signed by Santa himself, with a promise he and his elves will try their best to deliver to the kids what they asked for.
Last year, there were more letters dropped off than in 2019 -- the first year he began helping Santa -- and he personally hand-delivered all 50 responses.
“The small part that I play makes the holiday season that much more special for me,” Lebert said.
This year, the mailbox was out early. Lebert said the Santa letters need to be submitted to the mailbox by Dec. 19, which is when he plans to take it back down.
He said he expects an increase in letters, since the word is out on Santa’s official responses.
“I’ve had people offer to help me this year,” Lebert said. “It’s pretty amazing what this has become.”
Dombroski said the letters are so special to the kids.
“It’s a magical mailbox,” he said.